A report just out at the Heartland Institute is raising a powerful new argument for charter schools, which are run by boards of parents rather than the traditional superintendent-principal-teacher triumvirate.
Tim Benson cites a report from the Thomas B. Fordham Institute that “finds one out of every four teachers (28.3 percent) at traditional public schools across the United Sates are ‘chronically absent.'”
That means, he said, they are out of the classroom while sick or on “personal leave” at least 10 days for each 180-day school year.
Hawaiian schools have the worst problem, with a “staggering 79 percent” of teachers are chronically absent, he said.
In Florida, it’s 40 percent and in Nevada 50 percent.
“For comparison,” Benson explained, “the study finds just 10.3 percent of charter school teachers are chronically absent. In all but one of the 35 states with at least 10 charter schools, as well as in all 10 of the country’s 10 largest cities, traditional public schools employ a higher percentage of chronically absent teachers than charters do. In 12 states, traditional public school teachers are twice as likely to be chronically absent as their charter school peers, and four times as likely in seven other states. Traditional public school teachers in New York City and Washington, D.C., are four times as likely to be absent as their charter peers, while in Chicago, they are five times as likely to be absent.”
In short, charter school students see considerably more of their regular teachers than do students in traditional public schools.
“Teachers in unionized charter schools are twice as likely to be chronically absent as non-unionized charters,” he continued.
Study author David Griffith explained: “The patterns [this study] highlights certainly suggest that the high chronic absenteeism rates we observe for teachers in traditional public schools are at least partly attributable to the generous leave policies and myriad job protections enshrined in state laws and local collective bargaining agreements.”
Benson observed that students “suffer when teachers are out of their classrooms.”
“A working paper from the National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER) shows 10 days of teacher absences over the course of a school year can significantly reduce student achievement in mathematics. Teacher absences, the study found, ‘radically reduced … instructional intensity’ by creating ‘discontinuities of instruction [and] the disruption of regular routines and procedures of the classroom,'” he said.
He cited the continuing problem with low test scores turned in by public school students. For example on the 2015 National Association of Education Progress test, only 39 percent of fourth graders and 32 percent of eighth graders were “proficient” in math.
“With so many public school teachers continually absent from the classroom, and what we know about the effect teacher absences have on their students, it is no wonder these scores are so low,” he concluded.
“These startling absentee rates and middling test scores underscore the need to drastically expand private school choice programs – education savings accounts, school vouchers, and tax-credit scholarships – so that parents can have alternatives to the neighborhood public schools their children are currently forced to attend,” he said.